Mayor Jerry Clifton reflects on involving constituents, renewable energy
Newark Mayor Jerry Clifton has been in office since last April, following a campaign that focused on city relations with campus and making Newark more sustainable. According to Clifton, those six months in office have already brought results.
Clifton said that the culture of the local government has been reworked to better respect people and their time. This makes it easier to conduct business, he said. Clifton expressed positive feelings about the relationship between the government of Newark and the university.
“I think it’s a strong relationship,” Clifton said. “There’s a lot of synergy at the various levels. With the upper leadership in the university and the city manager and myself and so forth. We have been included in many more conversations than in the past. It looks like it’s going to be a strong relationship that’s going to benefit those entities.”
In March, a month before Clifton took office, and throughout the remainder of the spring semester, tensions between Newark residents and the university peaked with the notorious “Super Party Ordinance.” A student petition opposing the ordinance garnered over 14,000 signatures, arguing that the “bill is taking away from our college experience.”
According to Clifton, his time in office has brought various communities into the fold of government which have previously been ignored. In particular, Clifton said, Newark’s African American community has begun to play a larger role.
“Their contributions have been huge to Newark as it had grown up throughout the 20th century and largely those contributions have gone unnoticed,” Clifton said.
Amani Thurman, an associate with the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Newark said that while the role African American community has been increasing in Newark, he is not sure if that is because of the role of the mayor specifically, though it would not surprise him if it was.
“I would say that involvement overall in the African American community is increasing. The political climate is encouraging that,” Thurman said.
Thurman continued to say that the political climate within the city of Newark has been a more welcoming space for African American communities. He said that the cause of this new atmosphere is worth looking into.
“I couldn’t say that I could deny his claim [that Newark has become a welcoming community for African Americans] but I think it would be important to know what he is specifically speaking to,” Thurman said.
The students of the university are another group that the city has sought input from.
Robyn O’Halloran is a junior undergraduate student at the university. She is the first undergraduate student to serve on a currently constituted board and holds a permanent position on the board of the Conservation Advisory Commission (CAC).
“She brings a lot to the table and talking to some of the other committee people they are thrilled we are bringing a younger and certainly newer prescriptive to the board,” Clifton said.
Clifton, and the rest of the Newark government looks to the CAC for environmental issues, recommendations and projects. One such project is the implementation of electric vehicles into the city. Clifton said that the city government is looking at purchasing two electric vehicles for the government to use. Clifton also said a compromise has been reached between government and local restaurants where the latter will ban the use of plastic straws on a voluntary basis. For Clifton, environmental policies are an important part of Newark’s future.
“I am a strong proponent that the state’s standard, which is also Delaware Municipal Electric Cooperative Standard, 25 percent renewable energy by 2025 is a little light,” Clifton said. “I think we can do better and we should do better.”
One environmental issue that affects Newark frequently is flooding. According to Newarkde.gov, the flooding is a result of pipes and inlets within the municipal storm system that were engineered prior to modern analysis of storm water considerations. The system is unable to cope with the amount of rainfall during high intensity storms, which causes overflow.
In order to combat this, the city is redeveloping the old Caesar Rodney Complex in West Campus into an up-to-date stormwater management facility. This proposal was brought about during a voting procedure among the Newark community.
“The voters voted overwhelmingly three to one that they were willing to go in debt to buy that project,” Clifton said. “To make it into a stormwater site and to have a park to go with it. It’s going to be addressing some of the storm water needs in that area of town.”
Students of the university are members of the Newark community and have felt the effects of government legislation first hand. This ranges from development projects to Bill 19-05, also known as the ‘Unruly Social Gathering Ordinance’. To Clifton, the voices of the students are important and worth hearing since they are part of the community.
“You’re part of the community too and I am always happy to stop by and talk with you and see what concerns you have,” Clifton said.